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 Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Fri 31 Aug 2012, 08:46

Lear is chiefly remembered today for his nonsense rhymes but it is now not generally understood how well-regarded an artist he was in his time too. With the Gray brothers and Gould, Lear's beautifully detailed zoological, botanical and geological drawings and lithographs featured often in books, catalogues and other material produced by both the Royal Society and the British Museum in the early to mid 1800s.

As a celebration of the bicentenary of his birth the Royal Society this year is mounting an exhibition in the library at their Carlton House Terrace headquarters (free admission) in which many of Lear's prints - some never published before - can be seen in all their detailed glory (sample below). The event has just started and will last until mid-October.


"Culminated Toucan" (mid 1830s)

A link to the RS's own site publicising the exhibition can be found here:

Lear At The Royal Society




Aside from his "day job" art Lear was also an avid painter and sketcher of scenes during his travels, using his brush and canvas much as one might now use a camera, but with much more meaningful and expressive results in my humble view. One of my most treasured books (now sadly lost) was a collection of quickly executed "impressions" Lear made when touring round Corfu and Crete in 1864. The example below is of the Katholikon Monastery in Akrotiri, near Chania:



And one simply labelled "Akrotiri":

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Fri 31 Aug 2012, 11:30

I've never heard of Lear before Nordmann, but these are fabulous. I love the simplicity and that he has managed to record vast and intricate scenes with the minimum of pen strokes.
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Fri 31 Aug 2012, 11:58

Oh ID, you do know Lear - from 'The Owl and the Pussycat' if nothing else.

Are there many of these multi talented folk left? One that springs to my mind is Alasdair Gray.
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Fri 31 Aug 2012, 13:23

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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Fri 31 Aug 2012, 15:26

Well I sort of know The Owl and the Pussycat, my childhood was devoid of the poem, sadly, but I remember reading it to my kids when they were small. Although I don't feel a great fondness for it, not nearly as much as other stories that I did grow up with like Jungle Book anyway.

I was just reading up on Lear and noted that, like Kipling, he had a difficult childhood, although for different reasons, Lear through illness and Kipling through abuse. I wonder if these childhoods that both spent in some form of solitude was the reason why they developed these wonderous and colourful imaginations?

And Lear was asthmatic, explains why he spent so much time around the Med where the air is drier. It would have been infinitely more comfortable for him than the damp in the UK.


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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Fri 31 Aug 2012, 15:33

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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sat 01 Sep 2012, 20:59

It's now the bicentenary of Edward Lear's birth. I remember going to the Royal Academy when they put on a Lear exhibition in 1985. I spoke with the late Vivien Noakes at the opening of that exhibition. A wonderful, funny lady who was probably the world's leading expert on all things Edward Lear.
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 06:18

I envy you Viz, or anyone over there who will be able to see this latest exhibition. There would be hours worth of absorption and appreciation in this glorious work.
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 15:17

Not really, ID. The exhibition highlights only a selection of his botanical and zoological illustrations on the assumption that everyone is already familiar with his other stuff. Which of course, when it comes to the Cretan paintings, they are not.

Incidentally the Cretan paintings fell into the possession of one Richard M. Dawkins many years ago (a great uncle of the one with who we are now familiar) who was a classical Greek scholar, antiquarian and historian. It is thanks to him that they survived at all. Lear himself placed no value whatsoever on them, regarding them as mere doodles and it was only by pure luck that Dawkins found them in a cardboard box in some bookshop in London in the 1920s along with the accompanying diaries. It was he who had them restored and copied so that we can all enjoy them now. They became public only after Dawkins's own death in 1955.

Recognition and appreciation of these in the form of an exhibition is long overdue, in my opinion, and this year would have been a perfect opportunity to redress the omission!
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 16:04

I see Corfu had an exhibition of Lear's landscapes of the Ionian Islands this summer, to mark his bicentenary. Follow the link 'Edward Lear and the Ionian Islands' to see the work exhibited.

http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/2012/06/edward-lear-exhibition-corfu.html


Last edited by Islanddawn on Sun 02 Sep 2012, 18:46; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 16:15

For those of us who can't get to the exhibition or just want to see more, here's 504 examples. I never realised he had travelled quite so extensively

http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/artist34071/Edward-Lear/page-1

Of the many talents that I lack but would love to have, a principal one is the facility to make those kind of wonderfully direct watercolour sketches.

Edit - this is even better http://www.googleartproject.com/en-gb/artist/edward-lear/4129607/
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 17:11

Flicking through the paintings I was reminded of another painting.

David Roberts 1848

and

Edward Lear 1859.

So many of the 'travel' paintings of this era really were the holiday snaps and postcards of their time: so often the 'classic view' where you were taken by your guide to get the best angle and sometimes would still be taken to today.

But what snaps.
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Sun 02 Sep 2012, 17:35

There is a map here of Lear's travels on Crete, and lists the sites of some 180 sketchings. The man didn't stop moving and drawing! Click on the 'Pictures by Lear' to see some more examples of his Cretan work.

http://edwardlearandcrete.weebly.com/map-of-lears-travels-in-crete.html
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PostSubject: Re: Edward Lear - no-nonsense artwork!   Mon 03 Sep 2012, 05:07

Unfortunately I couldn't find the full series on youtube, this looks like it could be good too.

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